Awards 2017 Winner

Africa & Middle East

Derek Gripper
Libraries on Fire on Derek Gripper

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'Absolutely amazing,' was Toumani Diabate's reaction when he first heard Derek Gripper's transposition of music composed for the 21-string kora to the six-string guitar. When Gripper finally met Toumani in Bamako in 2016 (see #117), the world's greatest kora player dubbed him 'my white twin,' which was about as high a commendation as you could get. The classical guitar maestro John Williams was another who could not believe that it was possible to replicate the sound of the kora's multiple strings on a simple six-string guitar and assumed that it must have had been achieved by studio trickery and multiple over-dubs. When he learned that Gripper performed the music live and solo, Williams invited him to play at a series of guitar concerts he was curating at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at London's Globe Theatre.

Click to listenLibraries on Fire, Gripper's latest solo album, features breathtaking arrangements of kora pieces mostly associated with Toumani Diabate, and is a richly deserving award winner. Gripper has since followed it with the equally fine Mali in Oak (a Top of the World review in #127), based on a collaboration at the Globe with the British kora and cello player Tunde Jegede.'The beauty of this music is its simplicity and its complexity, all coming from one instrument,' Gripper says.

By Nigel Williamson